I Tried Job Carving to Identify a Fulfilling Career Path — Here’s What I Learned About Myself

In just two weeks, I noticed that my learner mindset and desire to collaborate with others will guide me in my future career.

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Job carving can be an effective tool to find deeper meaning in your work. The concept involves creating a “road map” of what you “love and loathe” about your current job. By jotting down the things that light you up as well as the tasks you could do without, New York Times editor Tim Herrera says employees can reframe tasks, and ultimately aim to do more things that they excel at, and that make them feel energized.

Job carving isn’t only a tool for experienced professionals — it can also be a powerful strategy for college students who aren’t quite sure what they’d like to do after graduation. What’s more, it can help students identify what might be most meaningful to them beyond the context of a classroom. College students find themselves in an unusual predicament; they must select a career path without much real world experience, and they have to strike a balance between finding work they enjoy and in some cases, work that will also allow them to repay student loans. Job carving can provide students with a way to balance their wants and needs, and decipher a path that is right for them.

As a senior in college, I’ve implemented my own version of the job carving method to identify the things I most want in my first post-grad position. To do this, I simply kept a notepad with me as I went about my daily routine — attending classes and working on the college newspaper — and kept track of my likes and dislikes. I also spent time reflecting on past internship experiences and thought deeply about the kinds of responsibilities and projects I completed that I would like to work on in the future. After a few short weeks, I felt confident that I had identified the key components of what a fulfilling first job would mean to me.

I never want to stop learning

After two weeks of journaling my likes and dislikes about academia, one thing became abundantly clear: I have a learner’s mindset and like to experiment with new ways of doing things. The notes I took during several of my classes emphasized my aversion to repetition; the classes in which we followed the same routine every single day failed to thoroughly spark my interest. On the other hand, I was most engaged in classes where students were given the agency to explore new problem-solving skills and work on projects that encouraged creative thinking. This signaled to me that I will likely enjoy a job where innovative approaches, rather than rigid structures, are used to complete day-to-day tasks.

Collaboration is key

Before I tried job carving, I was well aware of the fact that I enjoyed group work. However, keeping detailed notes on my collaborative experiences helped me realize which kinds of settings I found most appropriate for teaming up with others. I quickly learned that group work makes the most sense for me when it involves brainstorming ideas, delivering and receiving feedback, or splitting up tasks to reach a collective goal. Meanwhile, my notes made it evident that I do not thrive in group settings where members are not held accountable for their actions. Recognizing this early on in my job search has led me to seek out companies that value responsible collaboration.

I value the idea of the whole self

Serving as an editor on my university’s newspaper was the most meaningful experience of my college career. There are many reasons why this experience holds so much weight in my heart and my mind, but it was the act of job carving that helped me pinpoint exactly why I was able to reap so much value from my participation. On top of acquiring skills through hands-on learning experiences, I was able to bring my whole self to our newsroom for every production night and editorial meeting. I made fast friends with other editors and felt great pride in my work largely because I was able to be myself and rely on others when I needed additional support. With that, I’ve gone into my job search with my whole self in mind, and have worked to identify companies that value their employees both inside and outside the workplace.

Try it yourself

For some, job carving might sound tedious or too time-consuming, but it is this type of intentional reflection that can help individuals find a larger purpose. As a graduating senior, job carving has not only helped me be more deliberate in my job search, but also more conscientious of what I can bring to the workplace and what my future workplace should be able to provide for me.

If you decide to give job carving a try as a college student, take the exercise seriously — almost as if it is an assignment for a class — and be as detailed as possible. That way, you will be able to easily identify patterns within your likes and dislikes. And be sure to give yourself adequate time for reflection. Begin job carving early on in your search process so you can develop a clear idea of who you are as a professional, and how your profession plays a role in your whole self.

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